This week we are pleased to once again have the voice of experience with Sharon, who has ‘unschooled’ her eleven year old son Greg that has Asperger’s.
Greg’s days are very much about his computer, his i-Pad and his videos. Recently, he’s into making cartoon movies, and has asked for various software. In 2006, we started out stuck in front of his playstation day and night…..but that playstation and Xbox are no longer being used. It is now gathering dust. He rarely even switchs it on. He rarely watches the television either. Seems like my son has moved on.
We still read to Greg every night. His bedtime story could be something cute (we’re presently reading about Paddington Bear and history of Marmalade) or something serious like a social book to teach aspie boys socialization skills; something religious; something academic like a geography book. We have Don Quixote on going too…this has led to Greg wanting to go to La Mancha LOL!!!
I cannot give you any links to any online resources for I too started off with lots of print outs and books. All these just sat, gathering dust for Greg was just not interested. So, I gave up and thought in order to know what my kid is interested in, I would allow him to be himself and observe. And till today, I am still observing, and the minute I spot an interest….I’m all out sourcing and supplying opportunities, and software and hardware. And oh yes, Greg swims a lot. Water therapy calms him. Now the weather is good…we’ll be at local reserve forest…looking for sticks – another of his all-time favorite passions!!!
I know unschooling works. Not just purely based on hope and faith, though it did start out as such. I read lots of other families unschooling success…and try to imagine their happiness….and wonder if we’ll ever be that lucky to get to “that” stage. Now I know….it is possible, and it is true. It is an inevitable consequence….. this Happiness…..when we unschool our kids by giving them the full freedom and respect, and trust in their own natural instinct.
Start by learning to see all the positives things your child is showing you. No matter how small…every progress is STILL a progress. Every little sweetness, is STILL sweetness from your child’s heart. Do not expect the type of progress and achievements as school churns it out. Do not use school expectations, like a stencil gauging your child’s progress. Your child IS DIFFERENT. And he or she will progress Asynchronously. They are fluid…and is ever changing. IF you insist on molding them with structure and timetables and expectations…how will you then ever see the beauty of their ever changing colors and form?
Greg has always progressed very differently from any normal neuro typical child. He focuses on something….spend all his time on it until he exhausts the topic/ interest. His interests do not have any sequence, and spreads in all directions. He does many things simultaneously…and learns many new things simultaneously too. My child IS DIFFERENT because his brain IS WIRED differently. Therefore his perspectives on life are very different too. Hence there is no way that he cannot not be different. And I am very proud of him and am very keen to nurture this uniqueness in him.
The most obvious and BIGGEST evidence that our unschooling worked, by far was last week. I took Greg for a holistic approach, in response to his grass allergy. This Bowen therapist who supposedly specialized in healing autistic kids…literally patronized and snapped at me the whole time, right in front …of Greg. As much as she kept claiming she is a professional with a reputation to keep….she is so NOT professional at all. She knew nothing about us, knew nothing about homeschooling…didn’t even give me time to explain what we have done for Greg so far…she just jumped at me…and in not many words was implying I am a bad mother; and that Greg’s hyperness and anxiousness and jitteriness is all to do with my reluctance to censor Greg and Greg’s choice in computer time.
Greg, with all his jitteriness and nervousness….took it all in calmly, unlike this mad dragon breathing in my face. I was more concerned for Greg as he observed this woman shooting down every piece of info I offered…I was trying to explain to her that it was not his computer, but his allergy, something to do with the grass allergen attacking his nervous system…..which was the whole reason why we were there in the first place. And I should know better…for I have spend 24/7 with this kid the past 6 years homeschooling him.
She was really not happy when I refused to allow her to impose her parenting ideas on what she deemed to be healthy for a 11 year old Asperger boy. However, I said, if Greg is agreeable to it…I’m up for it. She was not happy that I allowed Greg such freedom in decisions, but yet, she was keen to force Greg to say yes.
Upset and stressed from the shock of it all yet trying to be polite, we decided to “think about it at home”. As we step out of this lady’s front door, my son told me, “Let’s not come back anymore. She’s not right for us.” And at that very point of time, I know…. we have been doing alright all along. And how ignorance has made that woman so angry and disapproving of my parenting approach.
Yes…IGNORANCE spoilt her mood that morning…and very nearly spoiled mine too…still in shock and stunned by it all, my son pulled me back into his sunshine by telling me we do not have to go back, as we walk out into the warm sun towards our car. I can still feel that sunshine on my skin and of being lifted up by my son’s spirit and maturity. I must have been literally skipping!!! OMG….it took me 6 years to get there!!! That magic that each and every seasoned unschooler speaks of. Gosh, I finally understood and felt it that morning.
This is where I see unschooling working its magic. High confidence, good self-esteem and trust has allowed Greg to be true to himself. He knew what he wanted and what he didn’t. And for that I am so thankful. So thankful that unschooling exists and that I was lucky enough to stumble upon it.
And for those of you who have worries about television time and computer time zombiefying our kids brain…let me tell you this. All those uncensored computer times every day for the past 6 years…DID NOT eradicate my son. Greg is still Greg 110%. Sensible, gentle and kind. Because we trusted him. We do not censor him but we are not shy to share our fears with him. Every parent has fears and demons and “lackings”, we tell our son always. And mine is Maths!!!! But trust is very important. Trusting him to know what is best for himself, and supporting him in his decisions, and lots and lots and lots of discussions. I will say that is the very foundation of our unschooling well being.
It may feel scary now, but trust me…it is scary for all of us when we first started our unschooling journey. Even now, I still have many wobbly moments, but just like all of us, you will find your way there to that Unschooling Magic. With determination, patience, and confidence.
Thank you for allowing me to share my very long story. I hope it will help give comfort and confidence in some ways. And hope everyone will find their perspectives soon.
Best Wishes to All
A special thanks to Sharon for sharing her unschooling journey with Greg. I hope you gained some insight into this magic called ‘unschooling.’ It is not always the easiest road as Sharon’s story with the alternative therapist illustrates there are prejudices abounding in this world about parenting your special needs child, homeschooling and especially unschooling. But that’s the beauty of this journey learning to trust yourself and your child…until like Sharon you have your Ah-ha moment.
Join me on Tuesday for a review of Raising a Sensory Smart Child by Lindsey Biel and Nancy Peske. Then next Friday, we take a further look at something that Sharon brought up in her guest blog…the value of demonized television.